Christina is a blogger and co-founder of adventuretogether.com, a family travel blog focused on outdoor adventures. After reading this interview, you should head over there for more advice about getting outdoors and staying healthy. In particular I recommend posts like 11 Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling and 8 Surprising Reasons Why Nature is the Best Medicine. I’ve tried my best to avoid overlapping with those posts because I know you’re going to want to read them as well. Let’s get started.
Jake: Christina, thanks agreeing to talk with me about health and travel! Before we get started, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and Adventure Together?
Christina: Hi there! Thanks for having me, I feel honored to be featured on your beautiful, inspiring blog! So, a little about me, I’m a wife and mom to two boys first and foremost, living in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. We started Adventure Together this year as a way to inspire more families to get outdoors and outside their comfort zone and create unforgettable, unique experiences together. We are still to new to this blogging business, but we are excited to keep learning, and growing our community of like-minded travelers and families.
Jake: I think you’re doing a great job so far! Of all the places you’ve traveled to, which did you feel had the most positive impact on your family’s health? What do you think made staying healthy there so easy?
Christina: We were really impressed with Costa Rica and their focus on not only an eco-conscious, sustainable environment, but also healthy living. This was especially surprising for a third world country. Costa Rica has so many abundant resources in terms of organic, non-GMO crops and foods, that going here was a breath of fresh air for us. We ate a lot of fresh fruit (mangoes, pineapple, guava, bananas) – all cheap and organic – and loved their local dishes which mostly consisted of rice, beans, chicken and fish. The way they prepared them was so flavorful and tasty!
Jake: That is interesting! We get so used to thinking of healthy, organic food as a luxury, we forget that in parts of the world, that kind of thing is the default. What kind of environment did you stay in while you were in Costa Rica (city, village, resort, etc)?
Christina:We stayed in an Airbnb near the beach in one area and a resort in another area. We typically shy away from resorts though because we usually save more money by staying in an Airbnb and doing our own cooking.
Jake: Yeah, we’re big fans of Airbnb as well. On the other side of the coin, on what trip did your family have the hardest time taking care of themselves?
Christina: When choosing places to visit, we typically shy away from places that may be hard to find healthy foods. But with that said, I don’t think we’ve ever traveled anywhere that we didn’t feel there were healthy options. We almost always stay in Airbnb’s or rentals vs hotels so that we can cook our own food! It saves money and keeps us from blowing our healthy lifestyle on the road. We do indulge on occasion though because I think that’s part of the fun about traveling! But generally speaking when eating out, we choose dishes that consist of healthy meats, are grilled and not fried, lots of veggies and salads, and not too many heavy starches.
Jake: I think that just goes to show that setting priorities has just as big an impact on travel as it does on the rest of life! As photographers, the scenery often plays a role when we’re planning our trip. It also sounds like healthy accommodations are as important as healthy destinations. When you travel, do you choose your destinations based on the activities you want engage in or do you pick your activities based on what’s available at the location?
Christina: I would say we do a combination of both! We keep a long bucketlist of activities we want to do in certain countries (such as bungee jumping in New Zealand or heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies), but we also choose locations and then research what outdoor activities that are available there. We are suckers for beautiful scenery, so our bucketlist of destinations is mostly landscapes (mountains, deserts, beaches, etc) and not cities. We aren’t big city people!
Jake: I hear you on the beautiful scenery, though we tend to gravitate more toward the cities than you do. Have you ever traveled to a city with your family? If so, which one was it and what features did you enjoy?
Christina: We haven’t done a lot of city travel with our kids outside the U.S. The biggest cities we’ve explored as a family have been San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland. Typically we only spend one day in the city though, the rest of our time is in the outdoors.
Jake: What kind of outdoor activities do you find are the easiest to engage your children in?
Christina: Our boys have grown up doing a lot of outdoor activities (they learned to ski at age 3 and we’ve been hiking with them since they were babies), but I would say the easiest activities generally involve water. They love paddleboarding, kayaking, boogie boarding, snorkeling, etc. There’s usually less whining when we are anywhere near water.
Jake: Lisa’s been hiking a number of times, but we still have to buy her a swimsuit! When your children were babies and toddlers, what kinds of adjustments did you have to make when you wanted to involve them in family fitness?
Christina: When the boys were younger, we did all the same activities we do now mostly, just shorter bursts of them. Skiing was usually half a day vs an entire day on the mountain, hikes were short, even camping trips weren’t long. This wasn’t just for their attention spans and tired muscles, but for our sanity too! We tried to include them in everything though because we strongly believe that exposing kids to as many things as possible when they are young makes kids more confident and able adults.
Jake: Did you get much resistance or were they up for it right from the start?
Christina: Definitely when they were toddlers, they whined a lot more about going on hikes. But we always made it fun for them with games, treasure hunts, and of course incentives, such as treats and snacks.
Jake: You obviously have a lot of experience and confidence with some pretty adventurous outings. Not all parents are in the same boat. Can you give some advice to parents who want to get their kids into nature but don’t have much experience with it themselves?
Christina: Going back to the previous question, I would say expose kids to things you enjoy early on and set small goals. Maybe that is one night of camping, or a 1 mile hike. Small goals are more attainable and easier for everyone to feel good about! Also, let kids be kids and just play in nature! Too often as adults, we focus on the end destination (like completing a hike) instead of the journey. Just be flexible, and make it fun with them! Everyone wins this way.
Jake: Obviously, exercise is only one part of fitness. A lot of people have a hard time eating healthy on the road. Do you, like us, find that this is the far more challenging side of healthy travel?
Christina: I think healthy eating on the road is totally attainable, but the hardest part is sticking to a routine! When traveling, you want to taste the local foods and splurge a little and although there is nothing wrong with that, too much of it can completely destroy your healthy eating habits. We find that when we pack our own snacks (we usually bring a whole duffel bag of healthy snacks and foods), limit our eating out and cook more, buy local seasonal produce, and choose healthier dishes when eating out, we feel better. If you come prepared and stick to a routine during your travels, you can totally stay on track and not feel like you’ve blown your diet! I would also add that it’s important to do something active every day. Whether that’s just a lot of walking, swimming at the beach, or biking, we always find time to be active on our travels. Kids sleep better too!
Jake: And of course when the kids sleep better, so do the parents. Which reminds me, do you have any other tips for getting a good night’s sleep while traveling? Perhaps a miracle cure for jet lag or great way to stay comfortable while camping?
Christina: We don’t have a miracle cure for jet lag, but we typically try to go to bed super early the first couple nights in a new country so we can adjust to their time zone. When the kids were little, we would have them take naps, but not too long! We wanted them to be able to sleep that night!
Jake: What is your go-to ingredient when you go camping?
Christina: We always make breakfast burritos and tinfoil dinners ahead of time and freeze them to eat when we are camping. Breakfast burritos usually consist of eggs/egg whites, chicken sausage or ham, potatoes, and veggies (with salsa). Our tin foil dinners are made up of chicken sausage, lean ground beef or shredded chicken, sweet potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and onions. We make a secret sauce to go on them and they are so yummy cooked over the campfire!
Jake: I have two follow ups to that answer. 1) Do you have any thoughts on meat alternatives like tofu, seitan, tempeh or textured soy protein? 2) Do you think you can just drop a bomb like “secret sauce” and not give us any details? Spill the beans!
Christina: I personally try to stay away from soy protein, as I have read studies that it isn’t good for certain types of cancer. Also though, I’ve never digested it well so maybe that’s a sign that I shouldn’t eat it! As far as our secret sauce, we make this yummy homemade BBQ sauce with all kinds of seasonings, brown sugar, hot sauce, and of course, GARLIC!
On Adventure Together you talked about your encounter with cancer in 2010. That’s a battle not everyone wins, and for survivors, it can change your entire approach to life. Were you a self-described health nut before cancer, or did that come about as a reaction to the experience?
Christina: I have always been a health nut even before cancer and used to work as a Personal Trainer and health coach, mentoring people on healthy eating and fitness. But definitely during and after my experience with cancer, I had a heightened awareness to certain things when it comes to healthy eating–eating more organic and non-chemically altered foods, less meat and animal protein, less dairy, and less sugar. All of those things can contribute to inflammation in the body which can lead to cancer. I don’t eat perfectly, but I do try to live by the 90/10 rule, which means 90% of my diet is based on a whole foods diet with 10% of my diet being indulgences like frozen yogurt!
Jake: Our daughter is just starting to string words together, but your kids are a bit older. Do you talk to them about staying healthy or do you just try to set a good example?
Christina: Our boys have heard us talking about eating healthy since they were toddlers. We don’t just tell them that veggies and fruits are healthy, but WHY they are healthy. What certain foods do in our bodies, for example, how blueberries are good for memory and brain function and how spinach provides vitamins that are good for our eyes and skin. We have also lived by the motto that kids need to be exposed to lots of different foods from a young age, so we never stick to the same meals! We try to work in a couple new recipes every week for dinner, and I also think that colorful meals made up of healthy foods that make up the rainbow, capture kids interest and desire to try them! Our boys are really good eaters because we have worked hard on this since they were babies. I don’t understand picky eaters! I might get flack for this, but I think that is mostly the fault of the parents!
Jake: I hereby hurl flack in your general direction! But seriously, I do like the idea of explaining why each food is good for you. I think kids definitely want to be healthy, they just need to be able to make the connections. Have you ever incorporated travel into food education (for example, did you get to see where the fresh fruits came from in Costa Rica)?
Christina: When we were in Maui years ago, we went to a pineapple plantation and that was really neat and informative. We tend to shy away from food tours on our travels, however, we would love to do more of that now that our boys are older and would enjoy that.
Jake: The final aspect of health, and probably the hardest to pin down, is mental and spiritual health. When you travel, do you find that you get caught up in the speed of events, or do you find it’s chance to slow down and get centered?
Christina: This is definitely a challenge for us because we are a family that typically likes to go, go, go! When on vacation, we like to pack it in and see it all because we don’t want to miss out on anything nor regret not doing it all! With that said though, we’ve noticed that when we slow down and take some time to have “down time”, our boys are happier so we make a conscious effort to have a little downtime each day. Even if it’s only an hour or two, our travels seem to flow better when we make time to decompress.
Jake: Do you ever dabble in yoga, meditation, or any other “mindfulness” activities?
Christina: I love yoga! I used to do it often, but now my life is so hectic, I don’t have time for it as much anymore! One of my favorite things to do when we travel somewhere is take an outdoor yoga class!
Jake: Dannie loves yoga, too. I can’t even touch my toes. What’s your best advice for letting go of stress while away from the comforts of home?
Christina: My advice here is you just have to not worry about anything back home! There’s little that you can actually control or do when you’re away, so just worry about it when you return. Sometimes this isn’t always possible, but the things that can wait, can wait. The bills aren’t going anywhere, the work load will still be there, the phone calls and emails can wait. Just enjoy this time together with your family because those memories are priceless!
Jake: That’s great advice, and it’s the perfect way to wrap up this conversation. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me.
Christina: Thanks for inviting me.
Anyone who enjoyed reading this interview should go check out adventuretogether.com for more tips on travel, health and adventure! They should also check back regularly for more interviews here on Jake and Dannie. Dannie’s wellness posts also touch on subject matter that we discussed here. I’d highly recommend signing up for our newsletter so you don’t miss out on more great tips and stories from people who have inspired us on our journeys.